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Constitutional officers: Petsonk leads Sponaugle for Democratic nod in attorney general race

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After governor, primary elections for other statewide constitutional officers were lacking high drama, with uncontested races for three of the five offices.

In the Democratic primary for Attorney General, four-term Delegate Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, perhaps best known for his legal challenges attempting to compel Gov. Jim Justice to reside in Charleston, faced Beckley labor lawyer Sam Petsonk, who previously worked as a legislative assistant for U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Carte Goodwin.

With early returns Tuesday, Petsonk had jumped out to a 54% to 46% lead.

The winner faces two-term incumbent Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who ran unopposed Tuesday.

In 2018, Morrisey ran for U.S. Senate against Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and lost, despite support from President Donald Trump. Manchin portrayed Morrisey as a carpetbagger from New Jersey, and emphasized his days as a Washington lobbyist for pharmaceutical companies, and his participation in a lawsuit to repeal the federal Affordable Care Act.

The most hotly contested race of the night was for Agriculture Commissioner, where one-term incumbent Kent Leonhardt faced Wayne County farm owner Ray Ramey in the Republican primary.

There was a three-person race among Democrats, pitting Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, a cattle farmer with 20 years of legislative service, against William “J.R.” Keplinger, a Hardy County farmer and businessman, and Dave Miller, a Preston County farmer and a former legislator and deputy agriculture commissioner.

With early returns Tuesday, incumbent Leonhardt and Democrat challenger Beach jumped out to commanding leads, with Beach holding about a 2-to-1 advantage over his opponents.

Three statewide constitutional offices had uncontested primaries Tuesday.

For Secretary of State, Republican incumbent Mac Warner will face former Secretary of State Natalie Tennant in a rematch of the 2016 general election.

Longtime state Treasurer John Perdue will be seeking his seventh and final term of office, challenged by Riley Moore, a former one-term Republican delegate from Berkeley County and grandson of three-term governor Arch A. Moore Jr.

State Auditor J.B. McCuskey is running for election to a second term, facing Democrat Mary Ann Claytor, a 20-plus year employee in the Auditor’s Office.

Reach Phil Kabler at,

304-348-1220 or follow

@PhilKabler on Twitter.